49ers halftime report: Samuel, Kittle touchdowns set up 17-6 lead over mistake-prone Bengals

CINCINNATI — Here are the highs and lows as the 49ers take a 17-6 lead into halftime against the host Bengals:

KITTLE SCORES AGAIN

George Kittle scored his sixth touchdown in as many games, and Sunday’s came with 18 seconds to spare until halftime.

Jimmy Garoppolo scanned the field and waited for Kittle to cross, then Kittle jumped at the 2 to grab the football, which he kissed with the right pylon for a touchdown.

That 14-yard score came a snap after the 49ers’ drive was kept alive courtesy of a Vonn Bell taunting penalty, after a third-down incompletion.

DEEBO IS BACK

Deebo Samuel, after missing the 49ers’ last game with a groin strain, showed great burst and balance on a 27-yard touchdown run, 12:05 before halftime. It was his 11th touchdown (of the 49ers’ 37) this season.

Samuel made history in the process. He is the first wide receiver to score a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games in the Super Bowl era, according to Elias Sports.

Samuel’s score came on his fourth carry this game (before he’s been targeted once with a pass). Samuel rotated carries with starting running back Jeff Wilson Jr., which shouldn’t be surprising. In his previous three games, Samuel had four rushing touchdowns (19 carries, 181 yards).

SPECIAL TEAMS RECOVERIES

The 49ers recovered muffed punts in each quarter, with Trent Sherfield recovering the second at the Bengals’ 31-yard line with 57 seconds until halftime. That recovery set up Kittle’s touchdown.

River Cracraft gave the 49ers their first break of the game, when he recovered a Phillips fumble at the Bengals’ 23-yard line with 9:10 remaining in the opening quarter. Cracraft, a practice-squad wide receiver, was on the scene immediately after Darius Phillips dropped Mitch Wishnowsky’s spinning punt. The 49ers converted that takeaway into a Robbie Gould field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Another potential fumble nearly came with 13 seconds remaining, but officials ruled that the ground forced Stanley Morgan to lose the ball on a kickoff return.

THIRD-DOWN WOES

The 49ers are 0-for-6 on third-down conversions, including a 53-yard bomb Garoppolo that Travis Benjamin nearly caught late in the second quarter. Earlier, Garoppolo had a 30-yard pass George Kittle in the chest, but Vonn Bell’s tight coverage kept Kittle from getting two hands on the ball.

THOMAS’ STARTING DEBUT

Rookie Ambry Thomas’ first career start came at left cornerback, and it came with a familiar problem: a penalty. A Jimmie Ward, second-quarter interception got nullified by an illegal-hands-to-face penalty on Thomas against Ja’Marr Chase. Three snaps later, Thomas gave up what initially was called a 37-yard touchdown catch by Chase, only for a replay review to rule it an incompletion.

Thomas started in place of Emmanuel Moseley (injured reserve) and Dontae Johnson (out; personal matter). Thomas played off Tee Higgins and allowed a 20-yard reception in zone coverage to help key the Bengals’ first scoring drive, which ended with a tying field goal.

AL-SHAAIR ENCORE

After making 16 tackles last game in Seattle, Al-Shaair has racked up 11 tackles, including three for loss. He got credited with a sack for being the closest defender when Burrow ran out of bounds. Al-Shaair’s knack for being around the ball resulted in him deflecting a pass that was caught anyhow.

DEFENSIVE STARTS

Each team went three-and-out on its opening possession. The 49ers opened with runs by Wilson (minus-1 yard) and Samuel (no gain) before Jimmy Garoppolo got sacked by unblocked Bengals’ sack artist Trey Hendrickson, who’s recorded a sack in nine straight games.

The Bengals opened with a negative run (Azeez Al-Shaair tackled Joe Mixon for minus-2 yards), then Joe Burrow followed with a pair of incompletions. Fred Warner’s blitz hurried Burrow’s first throw, and Ja’Marr Chase dropped a potential third-down conversion.

SCORING PLAYS

49ers 17, Bengals 6: Kittle’s score was a stunning shot, considering the 49ers were set up to settle for a field goal until Bell’s taunting penalty.

49ers 10, Bengals 6: The 49ers’ defense forced Cincinnati to settle for a 28-yard field goal on a drive that saw a replay review overturn a potential Ja’Marr Chase touchdown catch. After a third-down stop, linebacker Fred Warner required treatment for an apparent left ankle injury.

49ers 10, Bengals 3: Samuel’s 27-yard touchdown run came as he broke free around the right edge and slid behind a Tom Compton block at the 12. It was Samuel’s 11th touchdown (of the 49ers’ 37) this season, and it came on his fourth carry this game. Sparking the drive was a 21-yard catch by Brandon Aiyuk and back-to-back runs by Jeff Wilson Jr. that totaled 21 yards.

Bengals 3, 49ers 3: Evan McPherson tied things with a 37-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. That capped a drive in which Burrow produced completions of 14, 20, 10 and 11 yards against a soft, zone defense. Safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt stopped Samaje Perine a yard short of the first down.

49ers 3, Bengals 0: Robbie Gould’s 33-yard field goal (6:37 remaining) was a consolation prize after getting gifted the ball at the Bengals’ 23, courtesy of River Cracraft recovering a muffed punt. A third-down holding penalty by Trent Williams (vs. Trey Hendrickson) nullified a conversion catch by JaMycal Hasty, then Jauan Jennings came up 2-yards shot on a solid third-down effort. That put the 49ers at 0-for-3 on third downs.

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